LOOKING AHEAD: Steve Barclay says his son’s tragic death may at least have led to safer surf lifesaving competitions in future.
LOOKING AHEAD: Steve Barclay says his son’s tragic death may at least have led to safer surf lifesaving competitions in future. Che Chapman

Father’s relief at coroner’s surf call

THE findings of an inquest into the death of his son had left Surf Lifesaving Australia no choice but to immediately introduce helmets and life vests for junior craft competitors ahead of April's national titles on the Sunshine Coast, says Steve Barclay.

The lawyer and former policeman said the Coroner's language in findings released yesterday had been direct and mandatory.

"It really means from the day the findings are published," he said.

"I'm sure that will be a challenge for surf lifesaving but the language is pretty direct."

Mr Barclay's son Matthew was 14 years old when he died during a board race at Kurrawa Beach on the Gold Coast during the 2012 national titles.

His death followed that of 19-year-old Saxon Bird in 2010 and 15-year-old Robert Gatenby in 1996, both also at national titles at Kurrawa.

Mr Barclay said if Workplace Health and Safety had conducted a separate inquiry to the police following Saxon's death, it may have led to findings that would have saved his boy's life.

"I'm satisfied something has come out of Matt's death,'' Mr Barclay said.

"They are very strong rec

ommendations that can only benefit everyone in future.

"They are directions. The Coroner has been careful in the language he has used that Surf Lifesaving Australia mandate some things.

"They must do it."

Mr Barclay said he was relieved to know his son had not suffered before his death.

"The Coroner got it right when he said that clearly a catastrophic event had caused Matt to lose consciousness.

"The Coroner is absolutely right to find he had been rendered unconscious even though there was some opposition to that.

"It was what happened from what I saw. I draw comfort knowing there was no suffering. It's what every parent would think.

"The main point is that the Office of Workplace Health and Safety didn't investigate separately to police.

"In the case of Saxon Bird, had they done that they could have come up with their own conclusions on how to improve safety."

Mr Barclay said had the requirement for a separate investigation been in place after Saxon's death, changes may have been made.

"Surf Lifesaving Australia should have learned after the first or second death.

"The fact it has determined to never hold the titles there (at Kurrawa) again must be a connection.

"The carnival runs from seven to 10 days a year. Effectively they had two deaths in the space of three weeks.

"A normal workplace would have been shut down.

"On the day Matt died, old

er age group events had been suspended and the surfboats moved. In memory, the president of Surf Lifesaving stepped in and expressed concern."

Mr Barclay said the Coroner was quite pointed the only thing that could have saved his son was a life jacket.

"No one got into the water to save him,'' he said.

"The Coroner's clear conclusion was if no one can get in the water to save you, the only thing is a life jacket.

"On the day, two senior council lifeguards expressed concerns about safety.

"They spoke to officials and said they didn't think competition should run.

"That advice was not escalated.

"These were experienced senior lifeguards saying competition should have been suspended. That was not passed up the chain of command."


Read the coroner's full report and watch videos from Friday's coronial inquest findings at http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au